For Love

It is better to do things because you love to do them, without regard to whether you will get big.

Morenasso Sensualonda tells a story of when he was teaching kizomba (a dance originating in Angola) in France. To help popularize it, he would visit parties that advertised themselves as playing salsa, bachata, and kizomba music. He would arrive and there would be salsa music playing, and he would wait. “Salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, bachata, bachata, bachata…. Kizomba! and I would dance!, and then it would be over, and I would wait. Salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, bachata, bachata, bachata… Kizomba! The whole time the DJ would play only one Kizomba song an hour! And you couldn’t blame him. He was watching the dance floor, and if when he plays Kizomba, I am the only one on the dance floor, then he will not play that much Kizomba. In fact, if he played more Kizomba, people would be mad at him for not be doing his job!”

It can take a long time to teach and cultivate a circle of friends, who can then grow to a population of people who can dance. Kizomba is is now widely danced in Europe. I do not know whether Morenasso had set out to create a population of people would could dance to music that he loved, but I believe that had fashion not gone his way – that he would still be dancing it out of love.

If we do things for popularity, if we never get popular,  or if we fall in popularity, then we have nothing. If we do things out of love – it’s the only reason we need.

Different sorts of training

Corporate small talk – During lunch one day we talked about different polo shirts that we had gotten from the company, and what colors we liked.

Resolve – A co-worker told me that it is not necessary to speak out about a person who is not doing his job. For one, the person speaking up is often punished. Once, he spoke up against his supervisor, who made the blame fall on my co-worker, and eventually got promoted in spite of the complaints against his management style. I thought about my own childhood, seeing people who spoke up and those who did not, and thought that speaking up is like standing up for yourself in a fight. The goal is not to win, but to make the other person pause in the future before doing anything disrespectful.

Compassion – He had spoken with his mother about a current co-worker of his, and his mother advised him not to say too much. Just think, what if the man got fired? Could you live with yourself?

Patience – the day after, my co-worker finished the story. His supervisor had gotten promoted over another person that my co-worker’s team was supporting for the promotion. This was considered unjust. Yet, when turnover at that team remained very high (due to the promoted man’s managerial style) he came under scrutiny, and was removed. Thus, the man was removed not by any one person’s complaint, but by gradual general consensus. You just have to wait things out.

Martial – I learned a new way of falling when getting thrown that allows me to counterattack with a knife in my free hand even when someone is twisting my arm. It requires me to jump over the shoulder of the arm that is being twisted, while knifing the person. During practice, I do not think of knifing my partner, as such a thought would cause me to tense up. Rather, I think whether it is possible to touch him. It will take some more work before I can execute the movement naturally. After practice, I spoke with the teacher. He praised my worn, patched hakama, the dress-like garment that is worn on the lower-half of the body over the pants. More than a belt rank, it is proof of the depth of one’s training. I asked him why he doesn’t wear his old hakama. He says the students would ask – why aren’t you wearing the new one. I remembered hearing that the new hakama was a gift from one of the students, and I realized it was because he didn’t want to disappoint them. This, too, indicates depth of his training.

Intellectual – How wonderful all the options for ways to make a living and tools to help us that present themselves to us. Yet, so many are dependent on oil and natural gas. Just in 2014, Canada was extracting oil from tar sands, an undertaking that requires burning large quantities of natural gas. That is how scarce oil was. Now with cheap shale oil, we have a reprieve, but for how long? All of human endeavor is currently subsidized by millions of years of fossilized sunlight. When we run out, as we certainly will, we will return, if we are lucky, to the Italian Renaissance, or to Tokugawa Japan. Where the Italian Renaissance got its energy from, I’m not sure, but Tokugawa Japan got its energy from large-scale planting of cedars, which were converted to coal to power industry. So extensively were cedars that the fill the air during pollen season so thickly with pollen that many who live in Japan for a few years become allergic to it.

Seeing things both ways – A Taiwanese-American recently moved back to Taiwan, in love with Aikido, having attained a certain level of training, teaching in order to spread ones love for the art. Such words describe me and one other person. But we are also different. I find that I am very Japanese. I came, met a lot of teachers and students, expanding my network of Aikido friends, helping to teach at various universities. I have done this for over two years. Stereotypically, Japan’s is a culture that looks to history for answers. The other man came, and after visiting a few places, decided that he wanted to do things differently, and opened his own dojo. Stereotypically, America’s is a culture without a past.

Friendships – Facebook has a feature that digs up old pictures and puts them on the newsfeed again. Today an old friend messaged me, commemorating eight years of friendship on facebook, but thirteen in reality. I had just thought about her yesterday, funny coincidence. In many ways I liked myself better then – truer to my ideals, faster to act, smiling more, talking more.

Aikido – A student of mine is going to Japan to live with a couple in Japan, whom I’ve known for eight years. The couple do Aikido, and when they came to Taiwan to live for a year, they came to the NTNU dojo because I’d recommended it to them. I know the couple well because I continued training at the same dojo in Tokyo in spite of some conflict between the teacher and me. I had considered leaving, but I stayed. As for my conflict with my teacher, this seemed in the end not so important as the fact that we were connected by our love for the art.

Different lives – Once, I did scaffolding, and the people I did scaffolding with would scarce imagine that I was trained as an engineer and once worked at an air-conditioned desk job. Now, at a desk job, the people around me would scarce imagine that I once used my sweat and muscle to earn money regardless of biting cold or sweltering heat. The cold was alright – moving kept me warm. But the heat was rather unbearable. One day, I drank five liters before getting off of work. I liked it well enough to continue doing it for a year on weekends after I went back to a desk job. And I think to myself, I have at different points in my life lived as an American, a Japanese, and now a Taiwanese, and they are all personas that I assume. Everyone has a persona that they assume for convenience or protection.



Glycolytic and Ketotic Feedback Loops

I have taken an interest in diabetes recently, and done some reading.

Fasting has a regulatory factor, improving patient outcomes. Here are some statistics.

There’s some stuff on PubMed, as well. There are a lot of complex feedback loops such as this:
I believe that humans are evolved to experience periods of fasting followed by periods of overindulgence, in response to hunting and harvests, and that such patterns are required for conditioning of the feedback loops in the body. Continuous steady overconsumption of food leads to overstimulation of certain feedback loops, and under-stimulation of others, resulting in the body’s loss of ability to regulate itself.
And I think to myself, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve been really hungry.

The feeling of exercising while hungry must have been familiar to our ancestors on the savannah. Surely they did not have a little something to eat before going out on a hunt, but rather must have gone hunting because they were hungry. My own experience and that reported by my friends who also train martial arts is that exercise suppresses appetite.

Doing some research on PubMed, I find that exercise actually _increases_ blood glucose.

This was counterintuitive to me because glycolysis would have suggested to me a reduction in blood sugar. But, the body actually responds to the increased energy requirement by making more available. (The body is responding to a perceived energy deficit by increasing available glucose. Also a symptom of T2D.) The particular study involved a “format of exercise was found to be well tolerated in an overweight population,” but was nevertheless intense, involving intervals above anaerobic threshold (VO2 Max). Most people I know hate to even break a sweat.
Advice from personal trainers is that one must exercise longer than 30 minutes to start to lose weight (read: burn fat, or ketosis). I wonder if glycolysis actually promotes ketosis, and ketosis inhibits glycolysis. There must be some complex molecular signaling involved. Type 2 Diabetics are stuck in a runaway ketosis. Their bodies are stuck in starvation mode – blood sugar is elevated because their cells are not getting enough energy, or unable to metabolize the glucose that is there, and they must get their energy from burning fat, resulting in weight loss even with increased food intake.
So I have been experimenting on myself. What happens when I eat foods with high glycemic index, like potato chips or bread? I feel hungrier. I suppose the mechanism is: blood sugar goes up, insulin production increases. blood sugar drops. I feel hungry.
What happens when I exercise? blood sugar goes up in anticipation of increased energy requirements. I feel less hungry.
I usually eat following exercise. Exercise without eating would also have been a familiar feeling to our ancestors on the savannah – suppose they went on a chase, but did not catch the game they were chasing. What happens when I do this? I seem to sleep well, but wake up very early. I don’t experience diminished energy. (I’m used to training Aikido and average three times a week, so I’m already exercising more than most people I know – your mileage may vary.)
Yesterday after training I just had a banana. Think: potassium.
Today after training I had 50g of peanuts: High-fat.
I actually don’t feel hungry right now, although I did before training. I’d had cake and cookies at 4:30pm, and training started at 7pm.
Why am I doing this? I’m trying to learn more about my body. If eating high-glycemic index foods makes me hungry, maybe I shouldn’t eat such foods. Also, I’m experiencing  the feeling of hunger, and finding that I can tolerate and adapt to it. (Much like cold showers in the winter.)
I am also interested in what effect it will have on my body fat and muscle. Will I store more fat as my body responds to a nightly calorie deprivation? or will my body become more efficient at storing and burning both glycogen and fat, resulting in a better ability to build muscle (as muscle requires a lot of energy).

On Recreating Knowledge

@ Brian H: Yeah – the important thing is to approach with fresh eyes. The importance of questioning things is not to question them for questioning’s sake, but to try to figure things it for yourself. Like Richard Feynman would work on physics problems. He would try to work through a problem himself. If he go stuck, he would open the literature, peek a little ahead, then close the book and continue on his own. This meant he spent a lot of time recreating things that others had done, but allowed him to develop a keen intuition, and sometimes he would come up with a simpler or more intuitive solution.

He wasn’t really so iconoclastic as he was using existing solutions as reference. This is how we train martial arts – in the same way as how Nobel laureates understand their material.

The more we pay attention to norms and standards, the further we get from this sort of organic learning.

This sort of thing should be fun. Not a chore, but recreational.

To Learn

I finished listening to James Gleick’s biography on Richard Feynman. In Feynman’s office, there was a blackboard on which was written a few personal mottos:

“What I cannot create, I do not understand.”
“Know how to solve every problem that has been solved.”

On the board nearby, under the heading “To Learn,” a running list of topics.

He died before he could get to them.

We can’t do everything we want, but maybe if we’re lucky we can do everything that’s important.

Briefly Joyful

Aikido practice, in Japanese, is called keiko, which can also be translated as “meditating upon the elders.” Today was the first practice of the spring semester at Taiwan University for me. I practiced with the teacher. It was a strenuous practice. He told me later – “thank you – the more I teach, the less I practice – the older I get, the weaker my body gets.”

“It happens to everyone.” I said.

As I folded my hakama, I thought about the elders – all those who came before. All my old teachers who were once young. The teachers before them, who have passed. Once, I wanted to lean Aikido to be strong and to be able to fight. Now, it is enough for me to be connected to this stream of history, and for me to use it to develop and maintain my body.

Much of the jazz music I listen to is by musicians who have passed on.
Many of the books I read are by authors who have passed on.

Jazz, aikido, dance, food, sleeping, then waking with coffee. I love all of this. How could I ever give it up? But there have been many before who felt the same way. All of us, briefly joyful.